In his book titled The Republic Plato arises many questions concerning the philosophy of life.One of the most difficult subjects that he touches is the definition of justice. He tries to explain to his fellow friends how is the good man supposed to behave, and which is better to be just or unjust but that answer becomes very complicated and leads Plato to examine that rather complex subject in great detail. He demolishes the three popular definitions of justice that are brought up, which imply that justice is “
paying one’s debts,” “helping friends and harming enemies,” and “whatever is to the advantage of the stronger” and argues that these definitions are not complete. He promises to find a better explanation of justice that would satisfy everyone. Plato argues that in order to find justice in an individual one must find a justice in a city as a whole first, because ideal form or structure of the perfect city resembles the ideal form of the good person. Once we know what justice is it will be easy to see the injustice. In order to define justice correctly he starts to create his ideal polis, a perfect city, where justice must play a major part. Yet, the city that Plato creates develops in two stages; first, the healthy city where there are only the things that are needed for survival and a luxurious city where people have more then they need.
Plato decides that a polis begins because we cannot all be self-sufficient. It arises out of the wants of man. His first want is food; his second a shelter; his third a clothing. The sense of these needs and the possibility of satisfying them by exchange, draw individuals together on the same spot; and this is the beginning of a State, which we take the liberty to invent, although it is the necessity to live in a larger community that actually invents the polis. In order for the community to satisfy its basic needs, it will need a farmer to produce food, a builder to build houses, a weaver to provide food, a cobbler, and someone who would provide medical care. In Plato’s eyes, four or five citizens at least are required to make a city. Each of these people would have to contribute equally to the community and since each person can only one thing well, there must be a division of labor into different employments; into wholesale and retail trade; into workers, and makers of workmen’s tools; into shepherds and husbandmen. But then again, Plato realizes that no city can exist successfully without imports. Therefore, exports will be required as well, and this implies variety of produce in order to attract the taste of purchasers; also merchants and ships. In the city too there must be a market and money and retail trades; otherwise buyers and sellers will never meet, and the valuable time of the producers will be wasted in vain efforts at exchange. Plato ideal polis is almost complete when he adds hired servants and he state that somewhere in the interaction of citizens with one another justice and injustice will appear.
Even though Plato’s ideal polis has enough citizens, his fellow friends argue that his city is not satisfying and needs some comforts of life. What Plato states is that with more comforts the city will not be the primitive polis he intended but a luxurious city. He then adds the fine arts, dancers, painters, sculptors, musicians, cooks, barbers, tire-women, nurses, artists, and physicians to cure the disorders of which luxury is the source. Yet he realizes that in order to fit all people in the city, it has to be increased in size therefore it needs more land, which has to acquire from its neighbor. And this is the origin of war, which may be traced to the same causes as other political evils. The city will now require the slight addition of a camp, and the citizen will be converted into soldiers called guardians. But then again, due to the division of labor, the soldiers must be full time and it has to be their only profession. The guardians, according to Plato must be in a great physical condition and must be “spirited.” They have to be gentle and kind to their own people and must be specially trained for that purpose.
The guardian’s education must consist of physical training for the body and music and poetry for the soul. The stories taught to the guardians must be true. The stories about gods that include fighting, plotting against one another should not be allowed because of the fact that guardians might take example from them and eventually turn against their own city. The gods must be represented as they truly are; as the creators of all good things, as fairest and best in their own image, as absolutely true and just. According to Plato just, as education is important for the guardians their life style should include many sacrifices for the good of the city. The guardians should have no property; their pay should only meet their expenses, have common meals, and never marry. Plato implies that if they ever acquire houses, lands, or money of their own, they will become householders and tradesmen instead of guardians, enemies and tyrants instead of helpers, and that would lead to the destruction of the city.
In Plato’s ideal polis, the charge of the city belongs to the wisest citizens, who understand justice; how both the city and the individual ought to be arranged. The true ruler would be philosopher, “lover of knowledge” and a king. He ought to be a lover of the vision of truth, a lover of wisdom, as opposed to lover of opinion. Another very important aspect of Plato’s perfect polis is the fact that it not only contains justice but also other virtues, like wisdom, courage, and moderation or self-discipline. Wisdom Plato suggests is a general kind of knowledge; it is a good judgment about the city as a whole and maintaining good relations both internally and with other cities. Wisdom is usually found in ruler because they are the ones with the most knowledge and are capable of knowing what is good and bad for the city.Courage is the power to preserve belief about what things are to be feared. Also, it helps to hold on to one’s belief and not giving in to fear, pleasures, pains, and desires. Courage according to Plato belongs to guardians, because it is the courage that helps them preserve order, and avoids them form talking over the city.The last comes moderation, which to Plato means self –control, good sense, chastity, temperance. It controls one’s soul and prevents from pleasures and desires.
Even though Plato starts off with this ideal polis, he often realizes that ideal city can not exist because there will always be someone who does not agree with the rest and wants more control. From his description, we can assume that giving all the military power to the strongest group of people in the city might cause some trouble if they decide to take it over. The job specialization also posses a problem because at one point people would want to become not as depended on others as they are. If one group of workers decides to form their own city the rest of the population will severly suffer because the will not be able replace those workers very easily. So even though Plato’s idea seems very well though and interesting it seems as if there is not such a thing as a perfect society, where everyone gets along great and is happy with one’s life.